MUMBAI: The ambitious 60 million tonnes a year refinery project — the largest at a single location —planned on the Konkan coast in Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra may have seen the land acquisition plans put on hold following political opposition and local protests, but the management of Ratnagiri Refinery & Petrochemicals (RRPCL) are carrying out the groundwork — be it looking at designs, technology and configuration, or being engaged in building public opinion around the Konkan villages to make the refinery possible.
Around 80 per cent of the overall land (15,000 acres) earmarked for the refinery are not under cultivation, and 35-40 per cent of land owners have already given their consent for land acquisition, claimed B Ashok, CEO, RRPCL. He said the state government is extending full support and that he is confident of starting the work as per schedule by 2020. “I am pretty confident that this is the best place,” he said, commenting on the location.
Unlike refinery projects in the past, when Indian refiners had to scout for global partners for investment, the Ratnagiri refinery project has started with two strong global leaders in oil industry as partners: Saudi Arabia’s Aramco and UAE’s Adnoc have signed up to pick up 50 per cent stake in RRPCL. Public sector oil companies such as IOC, BPCL and HPCL hold the rest 50 per cent.
Konkan farmers have also been concerned about anything that would impact the world-famous Alphonso mangoes that grows in the region. “I have promised hundred thousand trees in the refinery complex,” Ashok said. The management is also trying to sensitise the villagers on the economic benefits of a `3 lakh crore project. To show them how the refineries have transformed locations, villagers from the Nanar area were taken to Panipat a month ago, he said. There are 14-villages with 850 families in the project area, and the consensus building exercise is on.
Recently, former BJP MLA from the area, Pramod Jathar, said the step to stop land acquisition this time is aimed at buying a temporary truce with the Shiv Sena, the most vocal opponent of the project. He expects that the project would gain pace once the land acquisition package is announced. Not only is BJP’s coalition partner opposing the project, they are also joined by the opposition Congress and NCP.
“Our refining capacity right now is at par with demand, leaving aside the export-oriented refinery capacity. We need greenfield refineries,” said Ashok. India plans to more than double its refining capacity to 533 million tonnes a year by 2040, considering the pace at which the fuel demand is growing as well as petrochemical product demand. Most of the public sector refineries are also looking at integrated refinery projects — refinery-cum-petrochemical complex.